The Hastings Center has started a new project –
“The Last Stage of Life.”
People are living longer, but with more years of chronic illness and frailty. Many lack the financial, community, or health care resources they need to secure their own well-being, and often die in isolation or with family caregivers who themselves have become ill from the stress of their caregiving burdens.
With support from the Robert Wilson Charitable Trust and with additional funds from Hastings’s endowment, the Hastings Center has begun a two-year planning process to determine how best the field of bioethics can meet the new and complex needs of our aging society and of aging people and their caregivers.
As a first step, the Center recently brought together a wide variety of experts from numerous disciplines and societal sectors – including health policy experts, demographers, architects, philosophers, gerontologists, physicians, nurses, urban planners, and grant makers concerned with aging and end-of-life care. The meeting focused on defining a social ethics approach to this challenge and began identifying the values that should guide structures and policies to promote good and prevent harms and injustices to aging people and their caregivers. Among the questions explored were:
- What is the epidemiology of population aging in the United States?
- How well do our current structures and policies respond to age-related illness and frailty?
- What is human flourishing in the face of frailty?
- How can we understand and articulate what makes for a good life for people living with age-related illness and frailty, especially those with limited resources?